Monday, January 19, 2015

How Terribly Strange To Be ... 60

My 60th birthday is just about a month away and I can tell you that, without any exaggeration, it really sucks hitting this "milestone." I seemed to have handled all the other "big" birthdays in stride, though I will admit that I had some issues with my 50th, but it was more not wanting to make a big deal of it. Lizz, to her credit, wanted to mark the occasion in some way but I resisted as if by not celebrating the fact it would go away. We ended up having a nice little dinner out with some friends. Actually turning 50 wasn't such of a big deal. I had way too much going on in my world - including a newborn son - to feel anything but alive and fairly well.

The only other birthday that depressed me was my 27th. I just didn't like where I was - physically, spiritually and career wise - at the time. However, it wasn't a long-lasting event as my life was soon to begin a series of interesting, if not successful, changes.

But this one is different. I think I figured out why. When you turn 50 your mind plays a little trick on you. 50 sounds like half-way or fifty percent. Yes, I know most of us don't live to be 100, but you still get a feeling that you've reached a half-way point and that's not bad. Also, most of us are doing pretty good now at 50 in spite of whatever bad habits you may have thanks to modern medicine and a bit of good luck. But now you turn 60 and all you can do with that number is round it up to dead. Plus let's face it - 60 years is long time for anything to last and still be in good working order so the little aches and pains are starting to add up. Then you have the added bonus of watching all of your childhood heroes age badly - the lucky ones, anyway.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a tale of woe. I am having the time of my life. I have a spectacular family. Lizz and I have hit a new stride in our relationship and Liam is just the greatest gift I have ever received. I'm still gainfully employed, still making music with my friends who, by the way, are some of the most interesting and fun folks around. I really have no right to complain about anything.

So unlike my 50th, I decided to embrace this one - big time. One of my old bands from the 80s - The Fabians - had been discussing the possibilities of getting back together and I was able to coincide it with my upcoming birthday. A bunch of my friends are also going to get up and play so I'll be celebrating with the people I love the most, doing what I love to do. I've also decided to dedicate this year to doing things that I've been putting off for too long. All things said, the sixth decade of my being is off to a pretty good start.

One thing though. AARP can kiss my ass.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Long Live Rock

On the way to see The Who last night it hit me that this could be the last time I was to see them perform as a band. It was the last performance of their US tour and you have to wonder if they would ever be up to another one. So many variables to consider, the least of which is just knowing when to say when. Add the fact that they just spent almost a year playing a massive production of Quadrophenia - a record that was built upon the personalities of the four original members - a show that at times seemed like a career retrospective with archival videos projected on the huge screens and included performances by both John Entwistle and Keith Moon. If this was the note - pure and not so easy - that they would go out on, it would have been a high note to be sure, but it still made me feel a bit melancholy that this might be the wrap up to a relationship that had started when I was a teenager.

 But a funny thing happened on the way to the old Felt Forum. After a blistering set by Elvis Costello, who ran through a parade of classics like the building was on fire, The Who took the stage to perform what was billed as a "greatest hits" show. In actuality, it was little more than the extra songs that they had been playing on the tour to close the shows. But there was a difference last night - a big difference. The huge stage had been stripped down for the smaller venue but the distinct change was that the ghosts stayed backstage. During the tour, one of the highlights of the evening was John Entwistle's bass solo, played "live" thanks to the magic of modern technology as Pino Pallidino, who stepped right into Entwistle's shoes after he passed, respectfully left the stage. However, when they played the song last night, there was no video and it was Pino who brought the thunder. They didn't play "Bell Boy" so Keith's bit wasn't a part of the show, but his god son Zach Starkey made it clear that you can draw a line from the past to the future, bringing something new while embracing the old. Roger was giving his all as he always does. A Who show always lives or dies with Pete, and he was alive and well, going for some of the high notes this time around and wrangling, strangling and slapping his guitar - to the point where I almost thought we might see one meet the stage floor only to be spared at the last moment. 

They had been ending the shows with "Tea and Theater" from "Endless Wire" with only Pete and Roger on stage. That song, with it's retrospective lyrics (we did it all, didn't we?) made you feel that this may be a their swan song. But last night, after ending with "Won't Get Fooled Again," the band lined up across the front of the stage and left us with rock's greatest anthem ringing in our ears.

 It may be all speculation on my part, but it felt as if there was a very conscience effort to show that this was a band with a long history, a loud and proud, history, but that the story is not quite finished. This isn't The Who that was, but The Who that is, here and now and, quite possibly, for another amazing journey somewhere down the line. I know I'm ready for it and as far as The Who - well I can tell you that the kids are alright.

Friday, January 11, 2013

And, we're back ...

It truly is official. I am the world's worst blogger - at least in regard to regular posting. Yet, here I am again, at the beginning of a new year filled with new hope that this will be the start of a regular stream of my thoughts committed to pixels, zeros and ones.

We'll see.

It's January so that means most of my free thoughts are destined to be about Elvis. Not so much about the man himself, but rather about The Elvis Show, a yearly charity event that I host. This will be the third year back at The Boulton Center in Bay Shore, and it looks as if we are headed for yet another sell-out. This year's show is themed "Elvis At The Movies" and consists entirely of songs from his films. I steered clear of the bigger hits - though as the movies progressed there were less and less actual hits involved. We are also doing the entire soundtrack to "King Creole," one of my favorite films and soundtracks.

This year I also picked the songs for most of the performers. I was a bit nervous but it seems like I did a pretty good job. Not going to give out any previews, you'll have to come to the show. We are right in the middle of rehearsals, which always have a festive air about them, extending the holiday season somewhat. This year calls for that extension, more than any other in recent memory. A lot of sad and bad news seemed to be coming from all angles at the end of the year, people passing away, getting sick, all sorts of things. Not to forget about the devastation from Hurricane Sandy and the tragic shooting in Newtown, CT. It seemed like the only news was bad news.

Music has always been there for me whenever I needed to escape from my troubles or validate my actions. That is still the case and I'm hoping that this show will help some friends who have been hit particularly hard recently to at least have a few moments where they can relax and have a laugh or two. God knows they deserve it.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Branches, Trees, Roots


There is a lot of grumbling going on around Long Island as a small army of men and woman go about cleaning up the mess left by hurricane Irene. I was in the dark for three days and it was not a pleasant experience. I can only imagine how difficult it is for those with special needs. Even so I am always surprised by the response of the public to those who did not create this problem, are doing their best to correct it and yet suffer the wrath of those who think that berating these workers will somehow get their lights back on.

Maybe it's me but I can't help but wonder where this attitude has come from. Could it be the endless stream of whiners that flood the airwaves and fill the television screens these days? 

It was thirty years ago that Bruce Springsteen held a benefit show for the Vietnam Veterans. This was Springsteen's coming out party as a true social activist and, as a side note, certainly one of the top-ten shows of his career. If you have a chance to dig it up you'll find it well worth your time. A little known fact is that Springsteen single handedly saved the Vietnam Veterans Association, placing a call to them on the very day that they were going to close up shop due to financial problems and a lack of support. Springsteen opened the show with an exceptionally accurate view of the plight of the Vets and then introduced Robert Mueller, a Vietnam vet, who introduced the event and in a few minutes explained what everything was about in the most eloquent way. The two speeches are short, to the point and truly uplifting.

The band then kicks into John Fogerty's "Who'll Stop The Rain" and from the opening note you can hear that, to a man, the E-Streeters were well aware of the importance of that evening's performance.            

Remembering that night and the mood of the country at that time, Mueller recently said that among the many, many obstacles that the returning vets had to deal with was that they were associated with the war it self instead of soldiers who were just doing their job. The fact is that a great part of why even the most ardent anti-war activists can now separate the troops from the mission is due to the work by the Vietnam Veterans groups.

If you will; don't hate the players, hate the game.

Now it's 30 years down the road and a lot of men and women still have nowhere to run, nowhere to go. But thanks to an August night in 1981 many were able to find a light to lead them out of the darkness and it was Bruce Springsteen, the E-Street Band and rock and roll that led the way. Like I said, check out the show if you can. When rock and roll is delivering a message it can be powerful stuff indeed.

Some guy, who may very well traveled from out of town, who is cutting down branches today somewhere on Long Island is certainly different than a nineteen year old who was sent off to a foreign land to fight for his country, but they are both men with a job to do - and they both deserve your thanks and support.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Why Spotify will change your life - even if you never use it.

When I bought my car a few years ago it came with a 3-month free pass for XM radio, something I had no previous interest in and something that I had said time and time again that I would never subscribe to. Pay for radio? No way. Needless to say that within a week I was hooked and now I live in the Underground Garage and Outlaw Country. I am positively giddy over the fact that they will be adding a 24-7 channel built around Dylan's radio show.

When I first heard of Spotify I didn't see any reason why I would like that any better then the other subscription-based music services like Rhapsody and LaLa. After all, I have a huge music collection - over 50,000 songs in my iTunes library. I definitely embraced downloadable music - I am more than willing to give up the physical aspect of most recordings and when a package is worth buying for, well, the package, I'll buy it. But do I really need to pay for another music service - especially where I am in effect renting the music and not buying it?

Oh yeah.

Spotify delivers, big time. Think of an album or a song you want to hear and there it is. Take a few minutes and build a playlist that will last all day long. But Steve, what about those 50,000 songs of yours? Surely you have enough music to listen to, right?

The beauty here is that Spotify will be different things to different people. For the average person, five bucks a month to listen to whatever you want, whenever you want is a great deal. For people like me - who obviously have collected and purchased music all their life, there is still a great deal of music from their past that has yet to make the transition from vinyl to CD, much less from CD to digital. Its been a blast thinking of older LPs that I haven't bothered to digitize (a "best intentions" scenario if there ever was one), only to have them instantly appear on my desktop.

Right now I'm rocking the free version which lets you listen to as much as you want with short 15 second ads every 15 minutes or so. The five dollar a month buy in takes the ads away and ten bucks gets you the mobile app so you can listen via your phone. The paid versions also let you keep something like 3000 songs off line so you don't need an internet connection - great for traveling and all that.

The thing about subscription services is that eventually the prices will go up and should you decide to drop the service - you lose all of your music. That could certainly suck for some folks, but I have those 50,000 songs to fall back on.

Or I could take a long drive and listen to the XM.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

I guess there's just a meanness in this world

I know that there are at least two sides to every story and that, usually, even the most unfathomable circumstances can be explained. As Mr. Holmes said, "Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth." Even so, I will never understand how one human being can inflect pain and injury on another without a real and true reason.

Believe me, I understand justice and I believe in it.

I have a friend who was attacked recently and beaten badly. He was blindsided - the victim of a coward who had only one goal - to do him harm. As I said up top, there may or may not be a reason that drove this madman to commit this crime, but one thing is certain - my friend did nothing to deserve this.

What is that allows a person to leave all reason behind and commit such a senseless act? Is it a chemical imbalance or some sort of bad wiring? Is it simply a lack of understanding of right vs wrong? Is society or his parents to blame? Or is it as Bruce Springsteen sings in "Nebraska" that "there's just a meanness in this world?"

I'm stumped. In the past few weeks, for whatever reason, bad news has affected me in ways that it hasn't before. It's just the sad truth that there is always a sad story in the paper and while they often caused me to pause and consider the family and friends of these unfortunate individuals, lately they linger longer in my thoughts. The nine-year-old boy lured into a car by a stranger. The insanity in Norway. A purse snatching in my hometown just a few blocks from my house. All strangers, but I kept imagining myself or my family in their place. It was if if there was a ever tightening circle of evil that was surrounding us.

Now I've seen it, if not first-hand very, very up close and it has chilled me to the bone.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Awesome!

Lately I find myself surrounded by all things awesome. I can't stop using that word and I've been called out on it a few times. Usually that would give me pause for thought, this time I just paused long enough to realize that I'm right - at this moment in my life there is awesomeness just about everywhere I look.

There is my awesome family, of course. But that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about stuff.

First off my new iPhone. I bought the original on the day it came out and it served me very well. But my new one is AWESOME! I can't get over the quality of the video that I've shot and the photos are much improved as well. I have yet to experience the much reported connection problems and I still got a free case out of the deal - how awesome is that?

On the subject of all things Apple, the iPad is, in a word, awesome! Every week a new app comes out that blows my mind. A couple of weeks ago it was Flipboard which collects content from various sources and presents in a way that could only be delivered on the iPad, including your Facebook feed. This week it's Uzu - a totally awesome time waster that takes full advantage of the iPad's multi-touch capability and lets you create an on-screen "fireworks" display. My awesome six-year-old Liam showed me how to use it.

I recently got a new guitar tuner, the massively awesome PolyTune from TC Electronic. Unlike other tuners, with the PolyTune you just strum all six open strings and it instantly shows you which ones are out of tune! Until you use it, you won't know just how awesome this thing is!

The other day Lizz and I took her parent's out for their birthdays which are a few days apart from each other. We went to brunch at Robke's, where they extend their awesome ten dollar lunch menu with a bunch of black-board specials and a nice selection of five dollar cocktails. We have never been disappointed there and Robke's is the only place that I can truly say that everything on the menu is, well, awesome.

On Friday nights we have been taking advantage of the awesome little free music program in Northport village. This week it was an awesome bluegrass band which we enjoyed as we sat on a bench in the park and watched the awesome sunset frame our beautiful little harbor.

This past weekend my - if I may say this - awesome band, The Blaggards, played out at Nick's in Montauk. The weather, the crowd, the food, the drinks, the bartenders, the ride there and back and our super-talented friends were all absolutely awesome.

You may think that I'm exaggerating a bit with all this awesomality (I just made that word up - just like Sarah, who is most definitely NOT awesome), but believe me, I'm not. I didn't even mention 3D movies, butter your own pop corn, Elvis on the big screen, Stevia sweetened Frappucinos, setting my DVR from my phone, velcro, the NY Yankees, NYRMA, Mick's Fender Acoustasonic amp, $69 1TB hard drives, my new office or the new Elvis guitar picks that Melanie just gave me.

All awesome.